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Theme park thrills may be the element of an Orlando trip that generates the most excitement for families, but anyone who’s visited a theme park with kids knows that hotel downtime is possibly the most important — and underrated — key to a successful Orlando family vacation.
Whether it’s to take a midday rest, unwind at the end of the day or even take a day off from theme parks altogether, many clients (and their kids) rely on hotel time to recharge for their next adventure.
With hundreds of hotels in the Orlando area, it may be tough to find the right fit — but like Cinderella’s glass slipper, these three Marriott properties will fit families perfectly.
(Editor’s note: All the properties mentioned here are open as of press time. We recommend checking each hotel’s website for the latest information on COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.)
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort comprises two hotels: the 750-room Swan and the 1,500-room Dolphin. In summer 2021, a third hotel — the 349-room Walt Disney World Swan Reserve — will feature one- and two-bedroom suites that will be a great addition for families.
“We’re 10 to 15 minutes from the Disney parks, but we’re also 20 to 25 minutes from Universal and SeaWorld,” said Chris Kane, senior leisure sales executive for The Swan and Dolphin Resort. “So, [it’s all about] location, location, location.”
Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations in Atlanta, notes that the resort’s location on Disney’s BoardWalk also provides easy access to shopping, dining, entertainment and boardwalk games. Plus, he says, it’s a great place for an evening stroll or to rent a surrey bike for a ride around the lake.
A stay at The Swan and Dolphin offers many of the same benefits that guests enjoy at Disney-owned properties, except Disney’s Magical Express airport transportation and Disney’s dining plans. Otherwise, guests can take advantage of complimentary transportation via bus or water taxi to all Disney theme parks and Disney Springs, plus Extra Magic Hours (additional time in the theme parks before or after closing) and the extended FastPass+ booking window once both programs are reinstated (they are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
“The Swan and Dolphin is very family-friendly,” says Sue Ellen Knebel, director of travel services for DreamFinder Travel in San Marcos, Calif. “My clients like that they offer safety kits — including wall-socket covers — to childproof their room further. It’s little things like this that give parents peace of mind.”
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JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa Open since July 1, 2020, this newly built JW Marriott property is located within the gates of Walt Disney World, surrounded by the lush landscape of Bonnet Creek.
“If you like modern, sleek design — and also a new property — this resort is for you,” Griswold said. “It’s also a nice resort when one parent is on a business trip and the family tags along to visit Walt Disney World.”
The hotel’s 516 guestrooms and 82 suites offer flexible layout options, plus the ability for families to book a side-by-side or connecting room and the option to link up to five suites for extended families traveling together. Knebel also notes the hotel’s Family Suites have two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and bunk beds in the kids’ room.
“The JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort is the perfect getaway for families that want to explore the parks or just enjoy the amenities and reconnect,” according to Vibeke Sansone, director of sales and marketing for the property.
Families will particularly love the activity lawn, with a rock-climbing wall and a nine-hole mini-golf course, and the family pool and splash zone. The hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar (Illume, expected to open in early 2021) will offer 360-degree views of the fireworks spectaculars at Magic Kingdom and Epcot (though Disney’s fireworks are currently on hold due to COVID-19).
Orlando World Center MarriottFresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation that included redesigned guestrooms, a remodeled lobby (and new sushi bar) and a reconstructed golf course with a new 18th-hole island green, the 2,010-room Orlando World Center Marriott also has the impressive honor of being the world's largest Marriott hotel.
One thing that makes the hotel a great pick for families is Falls Pool Oasis. Voted one of the "World's Coolest Hotel Pools" by Forbes, it’s even more impressive when illuminated by a nightly laser light show (plus fireworks on holidays). Some guestrooms also have views of Disney World's fireworks.
“The pool is a tropical paradise with waterslides, caves, waterfalls and days’ worth of fun for kids,” Griswold said. “This is definitely a resort for families that want a pool day.”
During the redesign, double-double room configurations were converted to queen-queen to increase space for families. Hospitality suites were also adapted to one-bedroom suites with two full bathrooms and the option to add additional connecting bedrooms for larger or multigenerational families.
“There’s been a lot going on at Orlando World Center Marriott,” said Robert Bray, the hotel’s general manager. “We’ve enjoyed welcoming back guests to see the new look, and attracting travelers who seek a modern Orlando vacation destination where they never have to leave the property.”